I've been maintaining this blog (for better or for worse) over the last eight years. Over these years, its natural evolution has led it into becoming something of a niche place for discussion of music in general and Qawwali in particular. Rather than trying to return my existing blog to its pre-Qawwali eclectic roots, I decided I’d start anew on Tumblr. So if you’re interested in music, Qawwali and subcontinental culture, keep reading/listening/watching/commenting here. For all of the above and everything else under the sun, head on over to my Tumblr page .

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

…Of Exams

There’s a scene in the Simpsons Movie where the guys inside the giant dome are having an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting when suddenly the discover that they’ve run out of coffee. Pandemonium ensues.
I used to laugh at that, till the same thing happened to me.
Exams are my favorite-most thing in the world, as my friends can testify, hence the month-long worry sessions, the compulsive eating that sends my waistline flying, and the caffeine trips that play havoc with my biological clock. And each year, as the stakes get higher, the worry-weight-coffee cycle begins earlier and grows more intense.
This past month were my first exams of my Final year, the beginning of the end as it were, and the enormity of the occasion had me taking uncharacteristically desperate measures. My new phone, which had me losing at least 12 man-hours (I love the term “man-hours”, reminds me of Charlie Chaplin punching clocks in Modern Times) each day, was exchanged on a whim with a much more basic model in the hope of conserving time and concentration. The feeling of being completely cut off from the rest of the world that this swap entailed was partly compensated by the addictive Snakes game that made the many trips to the loo immensely more entertaining.
I had began prepping earnestly (that’s another world I quite like) three weeks before the start of the exams, and bearing the odd football match that distracted me, I was amazed at my bone headed insistence to actually study. The build-up was fine, I even had the odd weekend to come home and watch a bunch of movies, plus the obligatory ‘Wake-up-early-morning,-bunk-classes-and-watch-the-Oscars’ ritual 5 days before the exams started, which warrants its own post I think.The pace of preparation was slow and assured, at least till 2 days before the exams, when all hell broke loose.
Ever since 3rd Year, I’ve been relying on two addictive legal stimulants to help me get my ganglions jangling-pots of coffee and the occasional Red Bull-, and I wasn’t expecting this year to be any different. Three nights before the exam, me and my study group (worth at least one more post) set out to the cafeteria for our symbolic First Coffee Dose Of The Year. This usually is the sign that things have come to a head and “Squeaky Bum time” has begun. What we found at the cafeteria was too horrible to even contemplate. The place was closed….
Apparently, the cafe owner’s mother-in-law had passed away, and he was out celebrating, or at least that’s what we thought. As the thought of three coffee-less days before an exam hit us, the horror everyone felt was obvious. I could well imagine the amount of work I could get done with an unstimulated brain and thought for a moment to give up the pretense of study, get my phone back and not give a damn. But that was only a fleeting thought, because doing that would have required a sort of perverse courage that I knew I didn’t have.
God made the Universe, heaven and hell and everything in between, and then he made Mothers. Thank heavens for that. Knowing that I was broke and couldn’t go out to buy anything because of the shortage of time, my mum came to the rescue. One phone call and half an hour later, I had a package from home…. A box of instant coffee packets and the world’s biggest stash of Zeera biscuits. I wondered what the strange significance of Zeera was, but they’re my favorite flavor now.
Armed with the ammunition we needed, we managed to get down to studying, when suddenly at around midnight, we heard blood curdling shrieks coming from the corridor. I wasn’t unduly alarmed, knowing from experience that an anguished scream or two every night were routine from any one of the dorm rooms around mine, a time-honored exam tradition. But when they continued, became more protracted and louder, I had to investigate.
It was the hostel cat.
I have a special enmity with the hostel cat, who shall henceforth be called Aunt Agatha (Wodehouse-reference-with-a-desperate-hope-that-someone-would-notice No. 2413) A few days ago, coming back from a four day holiday, I had found the heap of my (usually) freshly washed laundry slightly, how shall I say ,soiled. Apparently mistaking it for the sand-pit, Aunt Agatha had relieved herself liberally on a stash of me shirts, leaving me with a distinctive odor that repeated subsequent washings had done little to dissipate, and had made me the centre of attention in the feline circles.
So, watching the cat scream and writhe in apparent agony made me say a silent, contented prayer for whichever angel-in-human-form had kicked it in the ribs or stepped on it’s tail or given it whatever retribution it deserved. Happy, I returned to my room, and the cat went away after an hour of vocal calisthenics. But it returned the next night, and the night after that, and the night after that ….
Pleadings, an odd thrown shoe, an Exorcism…., nothing seemed to appease it. Finally, after the first exam and four nights of successive feline wailing, we gave in and left the cat alone to pursue it’s Galli-Gurci impressions in peace. It became our nightly alarm clock, reminding us that it was 11 pm and the night only had 4 more hours of study-time left. It was only after the last exam that we found out what the zoologists in our hostel had deduced ages ago, the poor animal was in heat…
The exams ended Monday, and the overwhelming sense of relief was enhanced by the misprint-laden exam paper that now hangs in my room as a hilarious testament to the power a word-processor holds in the wrong hands. Now was the time for the de-mob, the detox, the de-brief and the de-examinifitication.
I’m glad to report, the 6:30 show of Watchmen at the local multiplex did that admirably…
The fact that the exams almost ruined my birthday, which was only rescued by the birthday present to end all birthday presents, the fact that the personal habits of my study mates made me doubt the statement that Man is at the top of the evolutionary chain, the fact that a flu, a backache and a crocked body-clock that the exams left me with shall take ages to recover, the fact that the prospect of a new Dylan album coming out in a month’s time has perked me up to no end…. shall have to wait for another day, laziness permitting.

Book Of The Week,”The Reader”
Movie Of The Week,”Watchmen”
Album of the Week,The Watchmen Soundtrack

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